For the last twenty-five years, Roland’s Iberian lynx had been used as an attraction in curiosity shows. One night, strangers take him away. Upon waking, he’s disoriented and scared…until he recognizes the scent of his old friend, Vane. Separated when Roland was sold and Vane wasn’t, Vane had since been rescued, and now offers the same freedom to Roland. With the force of Vane’s entire gargoyle clutch behind him, Roland finally feels like he can make a new start. Except, one of the gargoyles claims that they are mates, but Roland can’t sense it, revealing a secret he never wanted exposed.
Tobias is thrilled to discover that Roland is his mate until the lynx shifter denies their bond. When the pretty shifter declares he can’t bond with anyone—and Tobias learns the life-changing reason why—Tobias vows that it doesn’t matter to him. He’ll stand by and care for his mate through any difficulty. His devotion is quickly called into question when dangers from Roland’s past force Tobias to spend time guaranteeing his mate’s safety instead of spending time with Roland. Can Tobias prove to his mate that he truly wants him and doesn’t consider Roland just another duty?
Oh, shit. My mate doesn’t get hard? No wonder he’d seemed so upset about finding a mate. And what if he never recognizes me as his mate? How will that affect our bonding?
Tobias didn’t know, but there was only one way to find out. He glanced toward Vane. “I’ll find a way to make this work,” he vowed, uncertain if he spoke the words more for himself or to assure the other gargoyle that he wouldn’t hurt Vane’s friend.
Vane’s eyes narrowed. He opened his mouth, but closed it just as quickly. Finally, he settled for a sharp nod.
After taking a few steps toward the closed bathroom door, Tobias paused and looked at Perseus. “Do what you can to create a shifter friendly program. I’ll talk to Roland and, when he’s ready, bring him to you for...treatment.”
“I’ll put something together,” Perseus promised.
Nodding, Tobias headed toward the closed door.
“Good luck,” Matthew called, his tone tentative.
Tobias looked over his shoulder at Vane’s human mate. “Thank you,” he responded.
Sweeping his gaze over Matthew, Tobias saw how he’d pressed his back to Vane’s chest and pulled Vane’s arms around himself. Matthew had twined his fingers with his gargoyle mate’s claws.
Tobias found that the desire to do that with Roland, to hold him just like that, was undeniable. He realized that Matthew had been persistent, patient, devious, and strong in winning Vane’s trust. Tobias mentally reminded himself that he’d need to be the same.
The others filing from the room pulled him from his thoughts.
Returning his focus to the closed bathroom door, Tobias rapped gently. When he didn’t get a response, he knocked louder. This time, after a few seconds, he heard a watery-sounding, go away.
Oh, f*** that.
Tobias reached down and gripped the handle. He wasn’t surprised to find it locked, but that didn’t stop him. Using his gargoyle strength, he wrenched the handle and broke the lock, popping the door open.
Pushing the door wide, Tobias stepped inside the small room. He glanced around, searching for his mate. His heart clenched in his chest upon spotting him seated on the floor, wedged between the toilet and the wall. Again, his knees were pressed against his chest and his arms wrapped tightly around them.
Allowing a sigh to slip passed his teeth and lips, Tobias slowly moved across the spacious area and lowered to his knees before the shifter. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d kneeled before a male once, let alone twice, in one evening. Upon spotting the trembling in Roland’s skinny body, he couldn’t help but reach for the male.
Tobias chose to ignore that. Gripping Roland’s upper arms, Tobias felt his mate’s cold, clammy skin. Not liking that one bit, especially with how little padding Roland had to hold in his body heat, Tobias pulled his mate out of his hiding space as gently as he could.
Roland whimpered and resisted a bit, wriggling in his grip.
Growling more in warning than irritation, Tobias rumbled, “Come here, Roland.”
“This won’t work,” Roland whispered.
At least, he stopped fighting and came forward, out of his self-imposed prison. Tobias took that as a small win. “Are you averse to me as your mate?” he asked, truly curious. “Or just a mate in general?”
To Tobias’ utter shock, Roland actually kept coming. He pressed close and curled up on his lap, similar to what he’d done to Vane. Tobias let him. He rocked back onto his ass, which, fortunately, landed his back against a wall. Fighting back a shiver at the sudden cold, Tobias released Roland’s arms so he could wrap them around the much smaller male.
“Easy, little one. I’ve got you,” Tobias whispered, the endearment easily rolling off of his tongue.
“You don’t want me,” Roland mumbled. “I’m damaged goods.”
Tobias closed his eyes. His throat constricted. For just a second, he felt pin pricks hit the backs of his eyes. Damn it all, he would not cry…not when he knew his mate’s words weren’t true.